All of the photos have finally been uploaded. If you click on the photos tab at the top - they are seperated by locations I visited. Just click on the location and they will all be there. Enjoy :)
We started heading back on the Drake during Christmas Day after our stop at Roberts Island. Here we were able to Elephant seals that seriously made every type of noise imaginable that made you want to gag a little! I am glad they had the big Christmas dinner the night before since the Drake wasn't looking very "lake" like on the way home. There was two storms that were going to be coming together so as our Captain would say, we needed to use torpedo mode to get home. You knew things were going to get rough when the hotel staff was putting puke bags on every railing in the hallways. All you saw was a bag ever 10 feet in the hallways. I went to bed right after dinner becuase you could already tell it was getting rough and I wanted to get a little bit of sleep. Wishful thinking. All night we were in 7m swells (21 foot waves) where I kept getting thrown from one side of my bed ot the next. At one point, the drawer I apparently forgot to hit the lock button for, went flying across the room hitting our desk. Whoops! The Drake Shake was here.
On the first real day of the Drake I got up for Breakfast and went back to bed until lunch. They were doing lecutres about glaciers and I knew I would just fall asleep during them so why not just nap in my own bed. In the afternoon they had a movie about Cape Horn. Christine informed me that it was from 1920 footage and why would they be showing us something about Africa. Well since it was dealing with Africa and I can't stand old Movies we just hung out in the library reading books and editing photos. You could tell many people were not feeling well since they weren't at any of the meals. Jonny the hotel manager was a little irritated at some at our table since they wanted to really feel what the Drake Shake was - we were in it! It finally started getting a little calmer around dinner time. The concave windows though in the dining room really make you feel like you are sick - the waves were up over them at points and when the boat is tiliting at a 30 degree angle staring right at the water, you are on a roller coaster for sure.
Day 2 of the Drake, we made great time getting through and beating the storms. When I woke up we were almost at Ushuaia with a day to go. Andrew got on the announcement saying that we had just gotten permission to go to Cape Horn. At this point my brain is already foggy from lack of sleep and I'm remembering what Christine said about Africa...How can we go to Africa and back in a day - what is going on?? Once he started talking about getting permission from the Chilian's then it all started clicking. So we headed within 3 nautical miles of Cape Horn. It was great seeing land after 2 days of just water.
Today is the last morning on the boat. They are giving us breakfast and then we all will be heading our seperate ways. I am just going to take my luggage on the airport transfer and hangout there. Hopefully there will be some wifi that I can upload some of these posts and some pictures. I will be flying to Buenos Aires and catching the midnight plane to NYC. I will have a 6 hour layover in NYC before finally arriving in Baltimore around 4. Getting home will take about 35 hours...I'm dreaming of my nice warm bed right now!
To say this trip was incredible, amazing, unreal, spectacular - it doesn't do it justice. Antarctica is one of the most breathtaking places on this planet. You feel so small in this massive place hearing the carvings of the ice, humpback whales feeding around your boat, penguins coming to explore who is visiting their islands. While my footprints in the snow will be covered by the next snowfall or penguin poop, this trip I will always remember. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people from all around the world on the boat - we surely had the times of our lives!
We are currently docked in Half Moon Bay. I woke up to a Christmas bag of gifts outside of my room from the boats staff. They gave us this large chocolate Christmas tree with Merry Christmas in many languages imprinted in it, a card that actually had a personalized message, and a Santa Claus Hat. This trip has been amazing with making sure we still feel like we can celebrate Christmas. Some of the people I eat with each day, their parents had put gifts in their luggage to open today – fun earrings, a big Christmas tie, everyone is so festive! The best part…It’s a WHITE CHRISTMAS. It is snowing for the first time since I have been here!
Half Moon Bay had a colony of chin strap penguins. They kept running zodiac shuttles until 11am which was nice because we didn’t have to be ready by the original 8:30 in the morning. So with the extra time I was able to do my nails and get ready casually compared to the go go go that I feel it has been the past few days. The island was covered in poop. Seriously I was getting so nauseous looking at all of the colors and the smell that you just wade through. So gross.
I made sure I put my patch on for the trek back – I am not wanting to experience any type of sea sickness tomorrow when we start heading back through the Drake tonight.
After a short nap we went back out to Richards Island where there were going to be lots of elephant seals. Getting on to shore there were baby elephant seals that kept playing with each other. A short walk and we walked to the other side of the bay where there was adult elephant seals and baby Gento penguins. The elephant seals are so massive – they were making every type of bodily function noise that Christine and I were starting to get sick from the how it was sounding. This was our last landing. The baby Gento penguins were much larger than the ones we had seen in the past 2 days due to it being warmer than the other islands further south. It was very entertaining to watch the elephant seals that somehow got up to this rookery way up top annoying all of the penguins.
Dinner was around 6 tonight because they didn’t want to us to get sick once we get back into open seas. I think all of us were in bed by 7:30. I slept a good 11 hours – it has just been so go go go with getting dressed, undressed, everything my body was saying please let me sleep. Around 9 Louise called Christine to give her back the ICE teddy bear that we had put inside the Christmas tree peeking out during recap. Whoops!
It is very obvious as I write this in bed, we are not going to be experiencing the Drake Lake but instead the Drake Shake. I can't fall asleep because the boat keeps rocking so much I keep hitting the wall. It's going to be a long night!
These early morning wake up calls are for the penguins – I really just want to sleep in. 6:45 we got the announcement to get up and be at breakfast in 15 minutes. Yet again we all got to the table looking like zombies and just wanting to go back to bed. We headed to Port Lockroy, the British research station, that 4 women work at mainly as a small conservation effort to keep the museum up and running. Only 60 people could be on the small island at once and a max of 30 in the museum. We had to do a split landing again so half of the people went to an island right around the corner as the other half went to buy souvenirs, look at the museum and ask a million questions to the ladies working there. They had a post box there so I sent 3 post cards, one to myself, one to my parents and one to Blake, however I wrote down the wrong address – I put 351 instead of 359 whoops. It takes between 4-8 weeks to get there, but hopefully at least one of them will arrive with from the penguin post. The post cards will go to one of the ships going to another station. Then they are flown to the UK, go through the British mail system and then to our houses.
On our way to Enterprise Bay, we found out that there were already 2 ships there so we had to keep continuing through the Graham Passage. I was just sitting in the front seats of the lounge and then all of a sudden I see a blow up ahead so I took my camera outside. I had taken a nap through the last humpback whale sightings so I was ready to take some photos. There was about 15 whales all surrounding us so we just turned off all of the motors, everyone was out on the decks and we just took it all in. You know its good when the captain and his mates grab their cameras and come out on the decks in awe. Some of the whales would pop up their heads as they were coming up to eat all of the crill. You could tell where many of the whales would come up due to all of the birds sitting right one the surface at that area. When you see 4 humpbacks fluking all at the same time you literally just sit back and go WOW!!! We had originally planned on going to go do a landing and zodiac cruise later, but we were all so happy with seeing the whales for the 1.5 hours just eating all around our boat so peacefully.
Dinner tonight was our Christmas dinner. They staff had everything decorated so nice. It was going to be 6 courses – going hungry on this trip has not happened at all. We started off with tuna tartar, garlic prawns, and steamed mussels. This was followed by mushroom soup and truffle oil that I didn’t eat. The main course was prime beef filet, asparagus and potato gratin. The dessert buffet had eclairs and baked Alaska ice cream cake. We had some strong Irish coffee and petit fours. We were stuffed! They really made it festive for us. We actually celebrated our big meal on Christmas Eve since tomorrow we will be starting to go back out to the Drake passage and they didn’t want us to get sick right away, so this allowed all of us to enjoy it! During dinner, each of the nationalities sang Silent Night in their own language which was really pretty and festive. Everyone was in the holiday spirit. Tonight the party continued at the bar for quite some time. There is something to be said having drinks at 1am and it is still light outside, you don’t realize what time it is to actually go to bed. Can’t wait to wake up for Christmas tomorrow!!
This morning we really didn’t know where we were going to go to. It was an “expedition” morning as we were on standby and then all of a sudden we needed to be on the gangway to load the zodiacs. Since many of our landing sites were small, we had to do a split landing where half of the boat that wasn’t climbing mountains or kayaking went and hiked to a peak on Booth Island in Port Charcot and the other half did a zodiac cruise around the bay. I went on land first since I didn’t really want to get stuck waiting for a zodiac at the end of the landing like I did a few days ago. Climbing up there were some adelie penguins and chin straps that everyone flocked to. Gento penguins are everywhere and when you can see something a little different we all just kneel down and just observe. One thing about penguins though, they poop everywhere and it stinks! The backside of the bay was all iced in but it was so pretty just sitting there watching it collide with each other and sometimes waking the seals that were trying to sleep there.
After our pretty easy snowshoeing hike Amanda and I got onto one of the best boats (Christoph) for our zodiac cruise. He is from France and was telling us all about Captain Charcot and how he was one of the first to actually winter Antarctica without actually coming here specifically to do that. I really liked learning a bit more about the area compared to other zodiac drivers that just go around in circles only looking for seals. We did find some amazing seals on an iceberg right in front of our zodiac and as we circled twice, one out of the three seals started really interacting with our boat and waving. I got some of the coolest photos with this Crabeater seal. He was so curious and just kept rotating his body to keep flapping his little flipper at us while peaking over the ice. We also got some really cool views of some of the ice bergs that were in the bay. It really was a maze trying to get to some of them since the fast and slow moving ice were colliding and building up at some points.
In the afternoon we headed off to Dorean Bay which is right on the other side of the mountain of Port Lockroy. There was a 1.5 hour snow shoeing hike there or you could just wander on your own exploring and taking photos. I chose to go explore and take photos of the Wedell and Elephant seal that were lying on the snow and rocks. It really is entertaining to just sit down and see what the wildlife is doing all around you. I had penguins start coming right at me falling on their faces, sliding all around. The seal calling out to others and just listening to all of the sounds it makes is very interesting. It is pretty high pitched but also sounds like a song!
We are also tired every day. Even though we are sleeping about 8 hours every night, every morning at 7am wakeup and 7:30 breakfast we all look so drained. I feel right now that I could seep for about a whole day just to catch up. It’s not just me so that makes me happy. All of our eyes hurt and we all just want to take naps but there is no time in the day for it.
This evening at dinner we found out we were going to Port Lockroy and the 4 ladies that live there came on board to tell us more about what they do at the station. These 4 ladies run the museum and gift shop along with monitoring the penguins and their chicks once they hatch. They are doing a study to see if human interaction interferes with the penguins nesting and having little chicks – so far they have not found any issues with the penguins interacting with the humans. The boats that come down here invite many of them onboard to eat and take showers on the boats since they live in pretty tight quarters.
After a good night sleep last night, I was ready to go ashore and take lots of photos today. After the past day and a half of go go go and having to be on a time schedule all of the time, I just wanted to relax and do what I want! Many that went camping came back and took a nap, I just pretended that it was a school day and hit the coffee machine and kept pressing the coffee chocolate button! In the morning, we went to Neko Bay where the majority of the boat got off to take a snow shoe hike. The hike was quit4e steep after you hit the first penguin rookery so Christine and I both decided to come back down and just watch how the penguins interacted with each other. Their eggs should be hatching hopefully within the next week or two. Something interesting about penguin eggs is that they sit on two eggs. One is the main egg, while the other is a half egg. So if something happens to the first egg such as a bird snatching it, they have this half egg that they then will focus on to hopefully have a little baby penguin.
Towards the end of this morning session, we knew a polar plunge was going to be offered so I wore my bathing suit. I felt I would be a totally hypocrite if I didn’t jump in when I have always said I would never do the polar plunge in the Susquehanna river, but I would do it if I ever traveled to the actual polar regions. Well today was the day – strip down to a bathing suit and jump in the coldest waters in the world. Christine and I both went in together. We ran in to the freezing cold water until we were up to our necks in it. I refused to put my head under the water since apparently the cold water in ears isn’t that great for you. Running out they would hand you a towel that was about half of the size that I wanted. Drying off I made sure to get my core covered first with a thermal base and vest – but I totally regret not putting on my socks next. My toes were one of the last covered and they were tingling so bad! There were about 20 of us that ran into the water. Luckily they put us on the first zodiac back so we could get into a hot shower. To be honest, once I had on all of my clothes I was completely warmed up and wasn’t in a super big rush to get a hot shower.
After lunch we went to Waterboat Station which is an active Chilean Station that has some of their Air Force members there 4 months of the year. I’m going to call this Shit Station. You must have really irritated someone to get stationed here! You could not walk around without going through TONS of penguin poop. It smelled horrible. Originally I was not going to get off since I was super tired and there were no hikes available, but once they said you could get your passport stamped, I was standing in line for the next Zodiac. They also had souvenirs and post cards to send, but when they “sell out of post cards” you might want to plan ahead! They charged $15 to buy and send a post card – are you serious! If you brought your own post card it cost $10 to send. Not happening. No shot glass there L
It was so nice to just relax tonight after dinner now that I don’t have any more “planned” activities at night. Time to edit lots of photos over the past 2 days and get caught up on everything!
Today (and night) was such a busy day. It all started with a kayaking trip in Paradise Bay – and let me tell you – it looked like Paradise for those that like the cold and ice! We wore wet suits for that just in case our kayak collapses and we go into the coldest water I have ever felt! I was paired with a girl from New Zealand and was happy to know that she knew what she was doing as well. The photo above is Estell and Josep who were in my kayaking group. There are many Chinese people on our boat that don’t follow any directions and just keep wandering off and the guides keep having to go get them and bring it back. At one point during the kayaking trip the guide was having to demonstrate how to paddle – this wouldn’t be the place I would have wanted to kayak for the first time. It was quite difficult in the tandem kayak to maneuver around all of the mini ice bergs. What looks tiny up top, doesn’t move and you start tilting all over the place. We were out for about 2 hours before returning back to the boat to bring up all of the kayaks onto the 3rd deck. The lady made the biggest fuss about water proof gloves the other day and my hands were so hot I just tied them to my life vest and paddled without them – so much easier! The sun is brutal down here – I keep putting on sun screen but I am still getting burnt – the reflection of the snow and water isn’t helping at all. Silly me I put my GoPro on to take a picture after every second to try and make a time lapse – I had over 3,400 photos – whoops!
In the afternoon after lunch we went back out. I was so excited because I was finally going to be able to step onto the actual continent of Antarctica. Everywhere else we have been has just been islands, but this was the true 7th continent. Before I stepped on land though, I had signed up for a photography tour. We saw two really large seals that just look like they are smiling at you. We were in the zodiac so we could get up pretty close and take photographs. We then received word that there was a humpback whale in the area so we went off searching for the whale – most sane people would try and avoid the whales, here they drive around for 30 minutes having us look for them. I wish I saw more seals, but hopefully tomorrow we will. We then flip flopped our groups and went on shore. The snow is so thick and soft you just fall right through so once on land you are wearing snow shoes. We trekked up the side of a hill to this overlook that had 360 degree views of the straight and glaciers. Some people were being super loud and also throwing snow balls so when the guide said lets all take 10 minutes to just sit here and take it all in without any cameras or talking I was SOOOO happy! You could hear the cracking of the ice all around you while you stare at mountains over 4000 feet tall right in front of you. Everything here is SOOO large. On the way down we were able to see a chin strap penguin. It honestly looks like he has on a helmet and then a strap under his chin, super cute! We were supposed to get back to the boat earlier, however the ship had to move due to ice so we were stranded on land for an extra half hour until the zodiacs were able to come pick us up. It was literally get back, recap meeting, dinner, grab my bags….to camp outside for the night!!
I have been super excited to go camping outside in Antarctica since I booked this trip! While most of the videos show these camps with tents already set up, I was given a shovel and a dry bag with 2 mats and 2 sleeping bags and a bag like a swag. I dug my own grave. It was off to a rocky start getting there since the old landing was covered in fresh snow and we didn’t have snow shoes. I got to the top of the hill and my leg went the whole way down that it was stuck. I had to pull my leg out and left the boot still in the snow and Christine dug it out. At this point I’m going this is my luck already, its going to be a long night! While digging my grave, I made sure to go pretty deep because I knew it would be blocking all wind and it would keep the majority of the heat down in that little pocket. We used all of the stuff we dug to make wind blocks. The hardest part was trying to get all of the bags inside of one another without getting them wet. I think I was one of the first people to just strip down to my base layer, get in that bag, put something to block the people that were still talking outside and the sunlight! I didn’t want to sleep with my sun glasses on so a jacket over the head did the trick. I absolutely loved it – perfect temperature, I would predict it was low to mid 30’s and no wind. I honestly felt like I was in my own house where the temperature isn’t always the warmest, but my bed is warm and toasty. I got to bed about 10:15ish and slept till 3 when I checked my watch. I only woke up because I was trying to switch to my other side and I was so twisted in all of the sleeping bags. Wake up call was at 5am and by that time I didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag. They brought a portable toilet overlooking one of the glaciers, but I made sure not to drink lots at dinner so I didn’t have the chance to use it. I also didn’t feel like putting on my boots once I was already all curled up. Can’t really say I slept under the stars, but I did sleep under the Antarctic sun! I would do this again in a heartbeat.
First day of getting off the boat!! It was so nice getting into one of the channels last night and the boat stopped swaying a ton. I actually got a good 6 hours of sleep – super happy about that! This morning after breakfast some people headed out to go mountaineering and others kayaking. Everyone else got onto the Zodiacs and went ashore to go snowshoeing and take a photography tour. I have never been snowshoeing – I was expecting what you see in the old movies where the shoes are quite massive – the newer ones that they have out are quite sleek and easy to use. We went up about 50 meters up the same hill the mountaineers went up and then continued around a big loop looking at the amazing landscapes and Gentoo penguins. The penguins are EVERYWHERE!!! While they smell, they aren’t as bad as the sea lions in the Galapagos so I am fine with that! Many of the penguins were still sitting on top of the egg they have which should be hatching any day now. It reminded me of the bald eagle camera since they use their feet to rotate the eggs while they incubate the egg. The penguins have what is known as penguin highways – they use these to walk both up and down the hills. How these dopey penguins walk up hill on a slick chute like “road” is beyond me. The penguins would come within feet of you if you didn’t move out of their way. Here the penguins have the right of way so you need to make sure you get out of their way! We returned back to the boat for lunch and dry off since many of us were laying in the snow to get some good pictures.
In the afternoon we went to Danko Island. I was part of the photography group, but I just walked around the rocky beaches with one of the guides and a few other people. A very large group did a snowshoeing trip up this crazy steep mountain – and you could see many of them falling on the way down. Snowshoes are meant for going up hill – not downhill!!! We got to see some more penguins and I had to start telling myself I needed to stop taking pictures of the penguins. I think I took over 400 pictures in about a 4 hour time frame of these two islands and penguins.
One of the groups is going out camping tonight. I will be doing that tomorrow night! It is mid 30’s during the day and today I got super hot just walking around I was taking off many layers. If only I had known to pack for Pennsylvania I could have saved myself SO much money!! I don’t even need my ski pants – just my waterproof day ones I would wear in the winter at home. I am also going to be doing the ski kayaking tomorrow. The wetsuit the lady gave me to try on – lets just put it this way – I looked and felt like a penguin walking down the hall and stairs to show here it did NOT fit. I was like a sausage in a casing. Luckily she had a larger size because that was just not happening!
Right before I headed back to bed, there was multiple humpback whales fluking outside of the boat. They haven’t gotten as close as the ones that I saw in Boston the one time I took a whale trip, but it is amazing to see them up against the most surreal landscapes. Heading to bed early tonight – I am so exhausted!!
Ahoy I see land! I still can’t believe I am spending my birthday finishing crossing the Drake Passage and I see the South Shetland Islands. We are expected to dock around 4am on the Peninsula. This morning I was able to call home where my parents sang Happy Birthday to me! The people on the ship have celebrated my birthday all day – between the decorations on my door after lunch, to the whole ship singing Happy Birthday to me at dinner with the chocolate ganache cake and the Happy Birthday banner and balloons all above my bed – it has been a very relaxing birthday!
Today on the boat we were prepping for going on land tomorrow. We had to learn about how to stay at least 15 feet from any animals, this is a bit familiar with having gone to the Galapagos. One of the odd things we had to do was vacuum our clothes. I didn’t have to really stress about that since the majority of my clothes are all new. It really was meant for those that have hiked and have seeds and dirt from other locations since they don’t want us to bring in any foreign seeds, plants and animals. You know I am all hiding some puppies in my clothing. We had to sign paperwork saying we understood all of this and if not, I would be subjected to discipline from the United States.
I listened to lectures about identifying marine mammals (whales, dolphins, etc) and then penguins/sea lions. Some people were taking notes, I was struggling to stay awake…I am one of the worst students with keeping focused when someone is lecturing – glad I don’t do that in my own classroom!!!
I found out today that I will be camping on December 21st at night and going kayaking the same day. Every other day I can do snowshoeing and photography tours. Tomorrow I have signed up for a photography tour in the afternoon. In the morning I am just going to wander around on shore taking photos of the penguins that are supposed to be there. I can’t believe we are going to be on land tomorrow!! This tour group is made up of such a diverse group – lots of young people, but also a few older people. I think having this being a basecamp tour where all of our activities are included, it really attracted people in their early 30’s which is great considering I thought I was going to be with very old people.
So as I write this crossing into one of the straights people started all running to one side of the boat – of course I did too. What appeared through my view finder…A HUMP BACK WHALE!!!! Perfect ending to a day!
Last night I didn’t get much sleep. While I really didn’t mind the constant rolling of the ship, it did keep me up. I am super fortunate that I do not feel any sea sickness – happy the patches are working. I did have some of the side effects, but I will take them instead of the puking that many on the ship are doing. I am glad I put it in at the beginning of the day yesterday so it had time to get into my system before all of the waves started! Today we all listened to different lectures about camping, sea kayaking and snow shoeing. These will start on the 20th depending on when they can fit us in. We can add photography and hiking tours when we aren’t sea kayaking or camping for the night. The rest of the day I just read over half a book on my kindle – I have been trying to stay on the upper observation deck so I am not seeing the waves right at the windows where it is for the meals. The meals here are delicious, well everything except for breakfast. Boiled hot dogs and baked beans or salami with green olives in it are not that appetizing to me at 8am. Thank goodness for toast, peanut butter and fruit! Other than that one meal, they have been feeding us amazing meals and some good afternoon snacks!
Lucky for me, we are currently experiencing the Drake Lake. For the most part it is very calm, but we still are experiencing 3m (about 9 foot) swells. If it was the Drake Shake it would be 30 foot swells so super happy that we haven’t experienced that yet. We are currently about half way through the drake passage. Tomorrow we should be starting to see some of the ice bergs towards the end of the day as we approach the Antarctica peninsula. Some people saw penguins that were swimming next to the boat today – but by the time I got to that side of the boat, I was just looking at white caps on the water. I think today was a first – I didn’t take one single picture – that never happens when I am traveling! The picture is of an albatross. They can have up to 7 foot wing span. They are following are boat to Antarctica and it is really interesting to watch them interact with the Petrol birds. They can actually fly while they are sleeping!